A public bath on the museum’s front lawn

28 10 2013

In what is probably a first in Singapore, some 100 people were seen to be taking a very public bath together at the National Museum of Singapore’s (NMS) front lawn on Saturday evening. The public display of cleansing was actually carried out as part of the Singapore Biennale 2013 on its opening weekend – a public performance put up by Malaysian artist Sharon Chin named Mandi Bunga, which literally means Flower Bath.

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Taking a flower bath, although not necessarily a public one in a crowd, is actually a ritual practiced across much of east Asia – as a means to cleanse body and soul of evil and ill luck, or as I was told in my younger days, to “buang suay” or throw out bad luck. The idea for the performance did in fact come from a call to cleanse, one which the Bersih movement in Sharon’s country of origin calls for, with the artist dreaming it up in 2012 after her experience of two Bersih street rallies – hence the yellow that is prominent throughout the display that is seen in the basins used as well as in the sarongs which the participants wore.

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While what most of us got to see was the public display, the 100 or so participants did actually attend workshops which were carried out on several weekends preceding during which participants got to design their sarongs for the event. The performance also involved the participants gathering at another Singapore Biennale venue, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) – assembling at the courtyard where school assemblies (when the buildings were used by the original occupants, St. Joseph’s Institution) had once been held. The participants then walked in their sarongs over to the NMS.

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While the performance – at which all involved seemed to have tremendous fun at, is a one evening event, the project’s process and outcomes have been documented and will be installed at SAM for the Singapore Biennale which runs until 16 February 2014. More information on the Singapore Biennale 2013 can be found at the event’s website.

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Highlights of the Singapore Night Festival

23 08 2013

To be held over two weekends, the Singapore Night Festival opens this evening with what promises to be some wonderful acts to literally illuminate the evening in the Bras Basah precinct – some of which I did get to have a sneak peek of. More on the festival and on one act which will certainly be a hit, Redux by Starlight Alchemy, can be found on my previous post on this years festival, Playing with Fire. Some of the other highlights for the first weekend which we did also get to see follow (descriptions provided by the festival guide):


Fly me from the moon

(Oomoonbeings by Singapierrot)

Friday 23 and Saturday 24 Aug 2013

7.30pm, 8.45 pm & 10pm

Armenian Street

Two ethereal jesters descend from a crescent moon and explore the land.  Dressed in plastics, these contemporary incarnations of Pierrot play in a series of teasing vignettes combining movement and installation. With a whimsical oldtime mood, this little reverie features gypsy-swing jazz duo So Ma Fan as live accompaniment.

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Shadow Play

(Vertical Extraction by Compagnie Retouramont)

Friday 23 and Saturday 24 Aug 2013

8.15 pm, 9.30 pm & 10.45 pm

Façade of the National Museum of Singapore

Dancers embark on a vertical journey up the façade of the National Museum and break into a rhythmic dance on bungee cords in this site-specific performance that explores the museum’s architecture and surrounding space. Light projections which amplify the dancers’ bodies, and a special video by acclaimed local artist and filmmaker Victric Thng, complement Vertical Extraction to offer new perspectives on movement and our environment.

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In Suspension

(Pyramid of Void by Compagnie Retouramont)

Friday 23 and Saturday 24 Aug 2013

8.30 pm, 9.45 pm & 11 pm

Façade of the National Museum of Singapore

In this aerial dance performance, a pyramid structure made of ropes is suspended in mid-air, outlining the contours of a void, an abstract space invisible to the eye. With the ropes as their only form of support, dancers demonstrate their acrobatic creativity and agility as they negotiate the minimalist set. Their movements form a dialogue with the pyramid, breathing life into the structure and giving shape to the spaces in-between.

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Playing with Water

(Water Light Graffiti by Antonin Fourneau)

Friday 23, Saturday 24, Friday 30, Saturday 31 Aug 2013

7.30 pm to 2 am

Outside Raffles City

Based on an idea as simple as illumination, Water Light Graffiti enables one to draw or write ephemeral messages which appear as light against the wall of LEDs. To use water, which has no shape and no colour, to draw light, is a magical experience for all. By mixing a natural element and technology, Water Light Graffiti’s users can even play with the weather or the evaporation speed for example. Water Light Graffiti also has a surprising role during rainy days and turn them into fireworks of damp LEDs.

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Music Made in  Singapore

(Homemade)

Friday 23 and Saturday 24 Aug 2013

7.30 pm to 12 am

Singapore Management University (SMU) Green

HOMEMADE 2013 is a celebration of originality, collaboration and Singapore-made music. This year, the music festival is presented over 2 weekends, 23 & 24 Aug and the intimate HOMEMADE 2013 (UNPLUGGED) sessions on 30 & 31 Aug. Some of the acts to look forward to are Pleasantry, The Obedient Wives Club, Inch Chua and The Bushmen. An exciting feature of the music festival has always been the never-before-seen (or heard) presentations and also, collaborations between musicians and genres. In the true spirit of bigger, better and louder, Homemade 2013 will debut a 20-piece band – The Electric Symphony Project.

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Caught in a Net

(Everlast by Sookoon Ang)

Friday 23, Saturday 24, Friday 30, Saturday 31 Aug 2013

7 pm to 2 am

National Museum of Singapore (Rotunda)

EVERLAST is an installation created with foil balloons. The work is a visual poem which the arrangement of text and the selected material for the visualization are important in conveying the intended effect of the work. The work takes poetry beyond the printed and causing it to manifest in both metaphysically as well as physically, blurring the distinction between art and text. This poem addresses life & death, light & lightness. It speaks about the exhilarating energy and dynamics of between 2 persons.

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Bottled Beauties

(Absolut Canvas)

Friday 23, Saturday 24, Friday 30, Saturday 31 Aug 2013

7 pm to 2 am

Sunday 25 to Monday 2 Sep 2013

10 am to 6 pm

National Museum of Singapore (Stamford Gallery)

With its iconic silhouette and its collaborations with some of the most recognisable artists and designers, ABSOLUT has cemented itself as the perfect canvas for creative ideas to flourish. ABSOLUT CANVAS showcases the ways in which artists and designers have used the ABSOLUT bottle as a channel for their creativity. The exhibition features beautifully designed bottles as well as an interactive area where visitors will get to unleash their own creativity. It also includes a pop-up bar serving ABSOLUT cocktails
that have been created specially for ABSOLUT CANVAS.

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And the best part about Absolut Canvas is that throughout the four nights of the festival, there would be a pop-up bar just outside the Stamford Gallery. The bar will serve Absolut Vodka and Absolut Elyx – with three different cocktails also served which were created specially for Absolut Canvas all of which is absolutely fabulous!

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The Singapore Night Festival runs on 23 and 24 August 2013 and on 30 and 31 August 2013. More information can be obtained at the following links:






Playing with fire

22 08 2013

Photographs taken at last evening’s media preview of the Singapore Night Festival of a performance, Redux, by Starlight Alchemy – one of the highlights of the annual festival which be held over two weekends in the Bras Basah precinct this year which will see a nocturnal extravaganza of performances over four days.

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Describing themselves as “a constellation of international artists orbiting around Singapore that manipulate light, fire and skill toys to bring a sense of wonder to the performing arts” it was indeed with much wonder that a sneak peek of their performance – set against the façade of the National Museum, Redux, was greeted last evening.  Their performances will take place during the first weekend on 23 and 24 August 2013 at 8.45 pm, 10 pm and 11.15 pm. The last performance of each night will allow some interactivity with a free jam-and-play session at the end during which visitors will get to play with LED manipulation tools the group will use in their performances along with fire.

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Interactivity will be a feature of this year’s edition of the festival – the Night Lights segment of it will see several projections which will permit interaction.  The festival also promises to be bigger and better with the participation of an increased number of stakeholders and partners from the area – more than twice that of 2012. It will also see the addition of several more venues stretching from Plaza Singapura to Raffles City. New venues this year include the two malls mentioned, as well CHIJMES, 222 Queen Street and Sculpture Square. This year will also see lots of food on offer with Hawker Food Alley set up at the alleyway between The Substation and Armenian Street and So Sedap at the SMRT Walkway along Stamford Road.

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Re-branded from “Night Festival” to the “Singapore Night Festival” to reflect it being a platform to highlight and showcase local talents, this year’s festival runs over two weekends on the evenings of 23 and 24 August 2013 and 30 and 31 August 2013. There is also late night free admission to the participating museums to look out for during the festival. These museums are the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum, and the Singapore Art Museum and will be on the festival nights from 7 pm to 2 am.  Do stay tuned for more festival highlights see at the preview for the first weekend. More information on the Singapore Night Festival can be obtained from the festival’s website.

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Information on Singapore Night Festival






The Chinese Church – another National Monument in need

24 05 2013

The Bras Basah Road area is one blessed with several monuments which date back to the 1800s. It was at the heart of an area where four of these monuments were erected largely through the efforts of the early French Catholic missionaries. Built to serve the needs of the growing Catholic community in Singapore, as well as to provide education for those in need, the monuments were not built to be functional but also were expressions of the love and dedication that they had been built with. While two of the four, the buildings of the former St. Joseph’s Institution (SJI) and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), have since been converted for uses other than what they had been attended for, the other two, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, are still used as they had been meant to be.

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Queen Street.

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Queen Street.

The two are also ones which are also badly in need of repair and restoration. The plight of the Cathedral, Singapore’s oldest Catholic church building,  is of course a more dire one. Its structure, ravaged by both time and nearby construction activity, shows obvious signs of damage. Repairs which are due to commence sometime this year will cost the Cathedral  some S$40 million, of which it has raised only a quarter of. The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, the  second oldest Catholic church building, while less in need of repair, does still need to raise some S$10 million to have, among other work, its roof and termite infested wooden structures repaired.

An appeal for funds at the church's entrance.

An appeal for funds at the church’s entrance.

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, built from 1869 to 1870, its steeple once featuring prominently in the area’s skyline alongside that of the Cathedral’s and the Chapel of CHIJ, and the dome of SJI, is one of several beautiful examples of the tropical adapted Neo-Gothic religious architecture the French Missionaries gave to Singapore (other examples include the CHIJ Chapel and Nativity Church). Built to house the growing Chinese and Tamil speaking Catholic community by a certain Fr. Pierre Paris (whose remains are buried in the church), the church also features some beautiful wrought iron work as well as stained glass panels (which are said to have been made by French artisans).

Ironwork at the church's entrance.

Ironwork at the church’s entrance.

A view towards the sanctuary behind which five long stained panels can be be seen.

A view towards the sanctuary behind which five long stained panels can be be seen.

A close-up of the five panels of stained glass.

A close-up of the five panels of stained glass.

A close-up of the central panel.

A close-up of the central panel.

A stained glass rose window.

A stained glass rose window.

The church is also one I have had many interactions with through the days of my youth. My parents who often referred to it as “Chinese Church” did on occasion take me there for mass and it was in this church as well as the Cathedral where I, as a schoolboy in SJI, would attend masses organised by the school – the school’s chapel was too small to accommodate the school’s population of Catholics. The church is also one I often associate with Catholic High School – the school having been housed at buildings within the church’s compound (now 222 Queen Street) and across the road (now SAM at 8Q).

A view through the grills of  the building which once housed Catholic High School.

A view through the grilles of the building which once housed Catholic High School.

The grills of the stairwell - the building is now used as an arts centre.

The grilles of the stairwell – the building is now used as an arts centre.

That it was commonly referred to as the “Chinese Church” stems from it having housed the Chinese Mission which saw to the needs of the various dialect speaking groups including the large number of Teochew speakers who remained with the church after the other communities moved out. The other communities included the Hakka and Cantonese speaking congregation who would in 1910 move to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Tank Road, and the small Hokkien Catholic community who moved to the Church of St. Teresa in 1929. Interestingly, the church also housed the the Tamil speaking community as Fr. Paris who built the church, also administered to that community having had a command of the Tamil language. The Tamil community was the first to move when the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes completed in 1888 was built to house them.

Fr. Paris' remains are buried in the church.

Fr. Paris’ remains are buried in the church.

In silent prayer.

In silent prayer.

There are several interesting facts about the church. One is that it once housed a pipe organ built by the renowned 19th Century French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1877 which unfortunately fell into disrepair and was removed in the 1960s. Another is that the boundary wall is thought to have been paid for by Napoleon III based on a 1914 report attributed to the then Bishop of Malacca (the diocese of which included Singapore), Monseigneur  Emile Barillon who served as Bishop of Malacca from 1904 to 1933.  The building as we see it today is also one that has been enlarged – the transept, sacristy and sanctuary were added in 1891-92. More on the building and the history of the church can be found at:

The boundary wall seen on Waterloo Street today - the original wall was said to have been paid for by Napoleon III of France.

The boundary wall seen on Waterloo Street today – the original wall was said to have been paid for by Napoleon III of France.

A look down the nave - the nave had originally had three sections, separated by huge hardwood columns which were removed in the 1890s.

A look down the nave – the nave had originally had three sections, separated by huge hardwood columns which were removed in the 1890s.

The choir loft at the end of the nave.

The choir loft at the end of the nave.

A wooden door at the transept entrance.

A wooden door at the transept entrance.

A view across the transept - the transept was added in 1891-92.

A view across the transept – the transept was added in 1891-92.

Another view down the nave.

Another view down the nave.

The tropical adapted neo-gothic design features windows which allow both light and ventilation into the church.

The tropical adapted neo-gothic design features windows which allow both light and ventilation into the church.

The statue of St. Peter at the entrance.

A statue of St. Peter at the entrance.

And one of St. Paul.

And one of St. Paul.





They only come at night!

31 08 2012

The second installment of the Night Festival which will be on this evening and tomorrow evening will be an exhilarating one on the basis of what was on show during a media preview of it on Wednesday. The highlight of it would most certainly be La Argentina for which Armenian Street will be closed to traffic. La Argentina, by Ozono Producciones of Argentina, features a dancer supported and at times suspended at the end of a boom of a crane, gyrating and swinging in a hail of confetti and to live music that will certainly have everyone on the street tapping their feet, if not, dancing.

They only come at night – performances for Night Fest that is …

La Argentina sees a dancer at the end of a boom of a crane that makes its way down Armenian Street.

The dancer is at times supported by the boom …

… and at times suspended …

The thrilling part of the performance is when the dancer, in a hail of confetti, is swung around by the crane’s boom.

The band that accompanies the La Argentina performance has not just the performer, but everyone else tapping their feet, if not dancing.

The very dynamic performance, which can be seen at 8.30 pm, 9.30 pm and 10.30 pm on each of the two evenings, is one of three parts of Fuerzabruta. The other two parts, Corredoras and Mylar, are no less interesting. Corredoras features dancers somersaulting and diving at immense speed to a backdrop of a huge foil curtain painted by shimmering blue and purple lights. Mylar features a 15 metre pool that is suspended overhead with dancers slipping and sliding along its see-through bottom to the changing hues and tints of the rippling puddle of water sloshing across the pool’s surface. Both Mylar and Corredoras will be performed at SMU Green. Corredoras will come on at 8.30 pm, 9.30 pm and 10.30 pm each evening, while Mylar will be on at 8.45 pm, 9.45 pm and 10.45 pm.

The corredoras from Argentina who will be performing in Corredoras and Mylar.

SMU Green will also feature several other acts including local bands. For the second installment, there will also be an act at the Vanguard Building (former MPH Building) – two performers will feature in Night Painting and Cast In Light – one in darkness and one in Light. More information on Night Festival can be found at the festival’s website (click here).

At the Vanguard Building.

A drummer from Dunman High School.